Experience

Establishing the Foundation of My Happiness

Newly appointed Central Territory young women’s leader Yoori Yim shares how she has become a person full of confidence and appreciation.

Photo by HOSEA JOHNSON.


by Yoori Yim
Chicago

I was 15 when I moved to New York from South Korea at my aunt’s invitation. I was excited about the opportunity to fulfill my dreams in the U.S., but little did I know that it would be the start of great obstacles.

Although I tried my best to excel academically, I didn’t speak any English and struggled to adapt to the culture. Being nearly 7,000 miles apart from my parents and brother, I became very homesick and started to lose my sense of identity. I sought happiness from the approval of others and developed an eating disorder, even falling into depression.

I knew that my family and many SGI members were chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for my happiness, and because of their prayers, I, too, decided to begin chanting in earnest to overcome my sufferings as a 21-year-old college student. I also started participating in the Ikeda Youth Ensemble taiko group and eventually became the group’s leader, which allowed me to develop my Buddhist practice more than ever.

On April 6, 2014, the taiko group performed in front of 3,000 members at the esteemed Lincoln Center in New York City. To prepare and lead the members to victory, I knew that I needed to develop a relationship with SGI President Ikeda in my heart. I began writing to him every day about my life, challenges and determinations. Until then, I had tended to give up or avoid challenges, but for the first time, I felt strong and wasn’t swayed by the difficulties. Working toward that performance became a turning point in my life; I deepened my sense of mission to contribute to American kosen-rufu, and I made clear goals for my future, including a desire to pursue pharmacy.

Although I wasn’t qualified to even apply for pharmacy school due to my poor academic performance in my undergraduate studies, I was gaining greater confidence in the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and my life.

Fortunately, I scored well on the science portion of the graduate school entry exam and had a strong application essay. Shortly after the performance at Lincoln Center, five pharmacy schools interviewed me. I shared about my training in the SGI and my recent taiko performance, and the schools were impressed with how I was spending my time and developing myself. In a sense, I was able to explain to them my true potential and not what my grades reflected.

After much chanting, I was accepted into the Chicago State University’s College of Pharmacy! This experience helped me transform my depression and eating disorder because I had gained a deeper understanding of my life, not based on my physical appearance but by recognizing my Buddhahood within. Although it is a constant battle, each time I feel my negative tendencies resurfacing, I now have the courage to seek from seniors in faith, dive into SGI activities, study and chant abundantly.

In 2017, during my third year of pharmacy school, my grandfather passed away from stage 4 spleen cancer. I was devastated and filled with guilt since he had helped raise me as a child, and I had not seen him or anyone else in my immediate family since 2004.

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t focus on my studies, which led me to fail several exams in the most crucial semester. Right away, my school notified me that I was no longer eligible to continue the program and needed to meet with the academic standing committee.

Failing out of school would mean returning to South Korea without having achieved my dreams. I was desperate and went straight to the Gohonzon to chant furiously every day. I promised my mentor, President Ikeda, that I would dedicate my entire life to kosen-rufu and dove into finishing the semester with everything I had.

As I deepened my vow with Sensei, I reflected on the fact that I had never helped a friend join the SGI. Realizing that I had closed off my heart to others, I began opening up to friends, and as a result they were listening to what I had to say. By the end of that semester, I helped five friends receive the Gohonzon!

With the confidence and profound joy that I gained from introducing others to Buddhism, I was able to honestly share my struggles and determination toward the future with the academic standing committee. In the end, they allowed me to stay in the program, and in May 2018, I graduated on time and obtained my doctorate of pharmacy!

I jumped into my next big goal for the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival. In addition to being a region young women’s leader and Fife and Drum Corps leader for the 50K Festival at the Wintrust Arena, I decided to make a great cause to strengthen our family harmony by registering my brother, JongHyun. This was a big deal, since I hadn’t seen him in 14 years.

It took tremendous prayer and effort, but my brother attended the festival, met many SGI members and saw how much I was exerting myself in work and SGI activities. He even started chanting himself and recently landed a better job in construction management. When he returned to South Korea, he shared with my parents what kind of person I had become. His report encouraged them to start engaging in SGI activities more joyfully and even open their home for chanting sessions.

I recently determined to finish reading The New Human Revolution by 2020. My parents decided to join me, and now we joyfully share Sensei’s encouragement with one another. Our family unity today is based on our seeking spirit and the oneness of mentor and disciple.

I am filled with a deep sense of appreciation toward Sensei, my family and my aunt, who raised me in America and taught me how to practice. And as the newly appointed Central Territory young women’s leader, I will unite with the young women to fulfill our great mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, leading others to the path of absolute happiness and creating a society of true peace and justice. WT